A Weekend Portrait: Avocation Exercised
It's dusk on Sunday. Cesar and Danni are over, Danni riding herd on the Boyos and Cesar mowing the lawn for us. The lovely, grounding smell of fresh-cut grass wafts through the open window. Inside, I am sitting crosslegged on the bed, balancing Darth Vaio on my lap. They do call this behemoth of a machine a laptop, but seriously, it's more like a desktop slightly crushed. But the 17" screen is fabulous, and worth the extra weight and heat. There's a cup of hot tea on the bedstead to my right. The cup, a Mara of Mexico mug, in the Pisces design, two swirling fishes blending into one earth-toned yin-yang shape. The mug is heavy, solid, deeply comforting. Full, at this moment, of agave-nectar-laced Sandman tea. The mug is symbolic on several levels; a reminder of what I'm here to do. It's a gift from AstroGirl, a thank you for editing a piece for her. And that's what I'm doing. Editing. And oddly enough, it feels really, really good. I'm about 1/3 of the way through Angela's novel. And I am enthralled. So enthralled that I keep getting pulled along by the story and forget to make comments where they're necessary. I do this when I do pleasure reading; my internal editor is usually perking along in my backbrain, making all the little tweaks it feels the editors at the big fiction houses were remiss in ignoring. I know I'm reading something really good when even my internal editor shuts up and gets swept away by narrative. There's nothing that remarkable about me editing; that's what I do in my day job, is turn articles on the Java programming language and Java technologies into marketable and readable english for Sun Microsystems. But that's technical editing. It's a very different bear than this is. In that editing world, it's about technical credibility, and reader engagement be damned. It's about imparting expertise, and writing only enough prose to glue the desired code samples together coherently. But fiction editing is a whole different kettle of, well, fish, actually. I find the two fish on my mug a lovely metaphor for the two priorities in writing; imparting information, and imparting narrative. The two swirl around, and it's pretty fruitless to argue about which should rightfully be on top, since they're equally slippery critters. The thing about imparting narrative, which is the perview of the fiction writer, is that it's far more emotionally bound up than informative writing. This is the fourth piece I've recently edited for someone I knew, and I am blown away by how much personal information shines through the "fiction". As Angela, in her wisdom, told me, "you have to own your own shit, cause it'll scream out of the words at you." And she's right. And I'm getting far more caught up in helping my friends with their issues than I am caught up in helping them maintain first-person point of view and active voice. Really is making me look at some famous authors a little differently. But as the sun creeps down, and the kids come inside, it's time to put the work away. But I am satisfied, and it's a good way to begin a week.